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September 2, 2014

Matt Limegrover

THE MODERATOR:  Questions for Coach Limegrover.

Q.  What stood out from the other day with Mitch?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  I think his composure.  He was wound pretty tight when the game started, which we were hoping wouldn't be the case, but ended up being the case.  He's such a competitive kid.  I think he wanted to go out and win the Super Bowl on his first five throws.
Eventually he got calmed down.  That's kind of how the whole offense went.  We were able to get him calmed down, get into more of a rhythm.
Overall that was a big positive.  So hopefully we can maybe get him to run a mile before this game around the stadium or something, get him calmed down right from the beginning.

Q.¬† Do you think it's a beginning‑of‑the‑game thing or the fact it was the first game, a night game?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  I think it was the beginning of the first game, it was a night game.  You got to be realistic.  No matter how you try and deflect it, there's a lot of pressure on the young man.  He's the guy.  We've stated that.  Everybody knows that.  Any time you're a competitive kid, you're in that situation, I think you're going to want to go out and do everything exactly right.
So it's been a good learning experience for him.  So we're going to move forward with that.

Q.¬† How did you feel about him pass blocking‑wise, especially on the O‑line?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  Not as good as what it needs to be.  I give Eastern Illinois some credit.  They threw some things at us.  First game, having to try to prepare for everything always gets you a little bit.  I was hoping we would be able to handle it a little bit better.
There were a few breakdowns that the guys realized it as soon as it happened.  Once we were able to get a feel for what they were trying to do, it helped us tremendously to get those guys over to the sidelines, take a deep breath, here is how they're trying to attack us, here is what we want to do, we were able to settle in as we went along.

Q.  Do you feel like you can put Ben back in there or are you comfortable with the starting five?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  I think a big thing is, as long as Coach Kill and I have been together, we've always tried to have five guys up front.  But there's some things that have changed since we've gotten here.  If you get the six or seven or eight guys you feel comfortable playing, I think that helps you in the long run.
I like what happened last year with Ben playing about 35 plays a game, Eddie Olson playing about 35.  That's something we're toying around with.  There's been a couple of the young guys who have had a couple good weeks of practice, we'd like to roll through there and get involved with that.
Ben is a guy, when we feel like he's 100% healthy, which he's awful close to being, he feels good, we're going to get him back in there.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH LIMEGROVER:  We're trying.  We're trying.  That's in his nature.  You know, I think there's a lot of it, when you see a quarterback run, maybe slide before contact, run out of bounds, not get an extra yard or two, you know, I think that's something that isn't in his DNA.  You've got to really work with him constantly on that, a bigger picture.  No one is going to think less of you if you don't step out and gain that extra yard, but you don't get hit by three defenders as well.  We're working on that all the time.
He's valuable.  He's breaking the pocket in a pass or there's something in the zone read, he's running the football.  But at the same time he's no good to us, those extra three or four yards are minuscule in relation to him being out on the field for the next play, series, game.
We talk to him about that constantly, and Coach Kill at the beginning.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH LIMEGROVER:  You know, getting really what we've been working on since really back in January, what the kids have been working on.  Like I said, I think Mitch got a little bit unsettled because there was some disruption up front, people at his feet early on.  So we got a little bit out of rhythm.
But there's a core amount of passes, play‑action obviously is something we were able to get to as we went along, being able to get some play‑actions in there.
The biggest thing is just when he goes back to throw, the things that we've been working on over and over again, just that comfort level.¬† That's an 11‑man job.¬† That isn't up to Mitch or only the O‑line or the wide receivers.¬† That's everybody involved.
So as always, that's something that you stress and you work on and you try and give them as many of those kind of looks during the week, all 11 of them, to try to get that comfort level as high as possible.

Q.  Disappointing you didn't get the ball to K.J. a little more?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  Yeah.  I think that comes with what they're giving you.  You know, there were some times where I think he looked back on it and said, That's what I needed to get to a little bit sooner.  You like the fact that he's able to look at that and say, Okay, these are the mistakes I made, this was the blind spot I had in this game.  Move forward, don't make that again.

Q.¬† With Berkley, is he big enough, strong enough now to be an every‑down back, 15 plus carries a game?¬† Does he have to change into that a little bit?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  I think the nice thing is with the group of runningbacks we have, he doesn't have to be that.  In a given game, maybe that situation presents itself.  But we don't have to sit here and say, It's Berkley or bust at runningback.
We'd like to increase his workload every week a little bit and get him more involved.  Everybody in here who saw the game understands that he's a one touch and that thing can be over in a hurry.
That's a nice problem to have, but then again we've got David Cobb.¬† He's a guy, the more you give him the ball the better he gets.¬† He needs his carries.¬† You got Bruiser, Rodrick Williams.¬† Fortunately we don't have to ask Berkley to be that guy, that 18‑ 20‑carry guy.¬† We want to make sure when he gets his touches that we're maximizing those opportunities for big plays for him.

Q.  You've worked with a lot of quarterbacks.  What is the intangible that you look for knowing he's taking the next step?
COACH LIMEGROVER:  Yeah, I think one of the biggest things is you love the fact he is so competitive.  So now it's a matter of you're not poking him with a cattle prod to get in there, be the leader.  You're almost pulling the reins back a little bit.
I think that's just something that comes with time.  Everything that we've kind of talked about during this time is leading up to just that maturing process.
The one interesting thing that people don't really think about, like I said, Thursday night it was Mitch's show.  Even when he was starting last year, there was still, Okay, what's the reason he is starting?  Is another guy hurt?  Is it this or that?  Now it was an unquestioned thing.  I think he really wanted to jump out.  He wanted to win the national championship first three throws of the game.
With that in mind, I think that was a great learning experience for, Hey, take a deep breath, it's a long game, there's going to be some highs and some lows, be that captain of that steady ship.  That's huge moving forward, especially going into this week.

Q.  Is that the key with this offense, trying to get this group to get those fast starts?  That's something you struggled with the last couple years.
COACH LIMEGROVER:¬† Yeah, you know, you'd much rather be up 14‑0 your first two drives.¬† That's always the challenge.¬† We're looking at different things always.¬† We script up a series of starts, series of plays, saying, Here is what we really feel is going to be successful, how they're going to react to it.
You want to make sure the guys feel comfortable with it.  So we're continuing to do that.  I think it does come down to really the guys feeling comfortable.  Good or bad, let's see how this thing goes.  Let's get going.  Let's get on the fast track.

Q.  Going back to Thursday, Mitch ran the ball seven times.  Is that a number you want to keep him at?
COACH LIMEGROVER:¬† I thought his decision making was excellent.¬† I said right from the beginning we're not going to have 30% of our game plan quarterback run anymore.¬† We're getting away from that.¬† Feel like we've got not only one runningback, but a number of runningbacks, some other guys in the run game, with the jet actions, the fly sweeps and things.¬† We can get the ball in different guy's hands.¬† Doesn't have to be quarterback‑centered nearly as much as it was.
We felt like that was a good number.  I can't say it's going to be seven every week.  Could be four one week, could be 11 another.  But we want him upright and being our quarterback.  That's an important factor as we move forward, for sure, is making sure that we're not intentionally putting him out there more than we need to, more than what fits into what our bigger game plan is.

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